WORLD’S FAIR LINE, 1939-1940

by Kevin Walsh

As I have lamented in Forgotten New York before, New York City is much better at eliminating transit lines than building them; during my lifetime, elevateds such as Third Avenue in the Bronx, the Myrtle Avenue El, the Culver Shuttle and the east end of the Jamaica Avenue el have disappeared, with little or nothing to replace them. Heavy rail lines are difficult to build, but easy to get rid of.

One line I wish I had rode but arrived way too late to the party for was the World’s Fair Shuttle, which connected the Queens Boulevard IND (now the E and F lines) from east of the 75th Avenue station, through the Jamaica Yards along the path currently traced by the Van Wyck Expressway to Horace Harding Boulevard at the World’s Fair, now the Long Island Expressway. Photos taken at the time (the title card photo is from the George Conrad collection) show a semi-rural line running through meadows along Willow and Meadow Lakes, which are still there. To this day it’s one of the IND’s infrequent outdoor forays.

The line ended at what was a futuristic station, with streamlined design and stylized station lamps that looked like something out of the world from tomorrow from the movie Things To Come. But when the fair closed, the tracks were pulled up and Jamaica Yards reconfigured. The story I have heard was that the tracks were temporary in nature and would have cost quite a bit to modify at a time when money was still tight and a possible war was on the horizon.

Sick transit, Gloria.

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4/30/22

5 comments

RaChaCha April 30, 2022 - 8:36 am

Very interesting. When my mom was a girl her mom took her to the World’s Fair on an interurban, so they must have ridden this.

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Andy April 30, 2022 - 9:17 am

The IND World’s Fair Line tracks were built quickly to serve the Fair site, on swampy ground. My understanding is that the line was never intended to be permanent, and indeed it was not. Having it in place after World War II would have been quite useful, as Queens grew rapidly eastward and the entire corridor along what is now the Long Island Expressway became built up. The only local transit in this area is bus service. Queens College, St. John’s University, and the Fresh Meadows housing complex are all in this corridor, and having a rail transit line through here would have been very beneficial. The World’s Fair route could have been extended eastward into an area that is today called a “transit desert.”

Indeed, the brand-new MTA issued a report in March 1968 called “A Program for Action.” It listed many proposals for new subway routes, including a Northeast Queens Line along the LIE service road that would tie into the Queens Blvd. subway at Woodhaven Blvd. Similar to much of that report’s proposals, it never saw the light of day. At least some of the key 1968 subway proposals, such as the 63rd Street Tunnel and the Archer Avenue subway, were built and do benefit Queens commuters. LIRR East Side Access, scheduled to open later this year, will also be beneficial to Eastern Queens residents.

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Ron S April 30, 2022 - 1:15 pm

Excellent book with great pics—“Subway to the World’s Fair” Frederick A. Kramer

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Ken Barnes May 6, 2022 - 7:12 pm

What series/model of train car is that? Can anyone suggest a link to read about them?

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Thomas Brill May 11, 2022 - 2:07 pm

I’m pretty sure it’s an R-1. I rode these a lot in my youth on the F/Culver line.

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